Coconut trees along Bottom Bay.

Your Trip to Barbados: The Complete Guide

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Barbados is located in the West Indies, in the southeastern Caribbean, between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. This unique position just below the Caribbean's hurricane belt protects Barbados from storms but guarantees enticing surfing. The entire island of Barbados is 21 miles long and is relatively flat, with no shortage of things to do. From trip-planning logistics to island activities, where to stay and what to do, read on for your ultimate guide to your next Barbados vacation.

Planning Your Trip

  • Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit is from mid-April to June after peak tourist season has already occurred on the island and before the wet season from June to November.
  • Language: English
  • Currency: The Barbadian Dollar is the main currency, pegged to the U.S. dollar at a fixed exchanged rate of US $1: BDS $1.98, and the U.S. dollar is widely accepted.
  • Getting Around: The Grantley Adams International Airport in Christ Church is the international airport where you will arrive in Barbados, and the 21-mile-long island is navigable by taxi and by rental car. 
  • Travel Tips: Travelers on a budget should consider visiting during the off-season, from mid-April through November, to save on airfare and hotel costs. If you are planning on visiting the island during the holiday season, or from mid-December through mid-April, then plan on scouring the web for travel deals in advance to minimize increased costs. There are also plenty of cost-effective ways to explore the island, including guided hikes led by the Barbados National Trust on Sundays at various locations around the island, and food tours that take travelers to a variety of Bajan restaurants in a single afternoon.
  • Tipping: 10 to 15 percent is standard.
  • Weather: Barbados is temperate year-round thanks to moderate trade winds off the Atlantic Ocean, but there is a wet and a dry season as the island is so close to the equator. Located just south of the Caribbean's hurricane belt, severe storms on the island are unlikely.

Things to Do

From idyllic beaches and breathtaking sea cliffs to world-class surfing and kite-boarding, Barbados is the perfect place for an active vacation in the tropics. (Though, if you'd rather lounge on the beach all day instead, we don't blame you. Especially if it's Crane Beach or Bottom Bay Beach in Saint Philip Parish.) Alternately, visitors should explore the local museums and sign up for a food tour or a rum tasting on the island to get a better appreciation of the nation's history.

  • Explore the Animal Flower Cave in the island's North Point to witness one of the most beautiful sites in Barbados. But if you don't trust us, trust Rihanna: The Bajan legend filmed a campaign in this very spot.
  • A trip to the Caribbean wouldn't be complete without a sunset sail. We recommend a trip aboard the Tiami Catamaran Cruise for some snorkeling and rum punch while you witness the blazing hues of the setting sun as it sinks into the Caribbean Sea.
  • Thanks to the island's unique location, jutting out to the east of the Caribbean island chain, Barbados is home to legendary swells that make the beaches here a surfer's paradise. (Kelly Slater is known to be a fan.) Waves usually max out at 6 feet (1.8 meters) but can get as high as 12 feet (3.6 meters) from October to March . Sign up for a lesson with Burkie's Surf School—the founder, Alan Burke, is the first professional surfer from Barbados.

Explore more attractions with our full-length articles on the best things to do in Barbados, top activities to do with kids, the best things to do along the west coast of Barbados, and the best beaches in Barbados.

What to Eat and Drink

A visit to the Oistins Fish Fry on Friday night is an absolute must. While the tradition of the weekly fish fry is prevalent throughout the Caribbean, this iteration in Barbados is one of the absolute best. Make sure to dance to the live music, and grab a bite to eat (and something to drink) at Angel's Cafeteria or Pat's Place beforehand. For a fancier option for a night out, consider paying a visit to Daphne's, a gorgeous seaside restaurant in the House Barbados, or booking a reservation at the Fish Pot Restaurant or The Tides.

Explore the island's culinary scene with food tours via the Pigtails and Breadfruit Tour, Lickrish Tours, and Lick De Bowl Food Tours. Additionally, Barbados is considered the birthplace of rum with the first distillery on the island, Mount Gay Rum Distillery, first opening in 1703. Since the island is famous for its rum, it only makes sense to take a tour at either the Mount Gay Rum Distillery, St. Nicholas Abbey, or the Foursquare Rum Factory; it is the perfect way to learn more about the local history of the island. For expert rum-drinkers (or merely rum aficionados), a rum pairing dinner at the Rum Vault in the Colony Club simply mustn't be missed. (Just remember to make a reservation in advance.)

Explore our articles on the rum lover's guide to Barbados and check out our recommendations on delicious Caribbean cocktails and recipes as well as our Barbados honeymoon tips for more romantic selections.

Where to Stay

The island of Barbados is filled with luxurious seaside resorts that capitalize on its lush tropical surroundings. If you're in the mood for stylish sophistication, then a stay at the adults-only The House Barbados is the perfect solution. The Colony Club is another chic resort that's part of Elegant Hotels (a Barbados Luxury Hotel collection) located nearby, and it features the Rum Vault, which is mentioned above. Little Good Harbour in the parish of St. Lucy (home of The Fish Pot Restaurant) is another picturesque seaside option. If you're booking with a larger group or focusing on family travel (and minimizing meal costs), then consider booking an all-inclusive resort to accommodate those needs.

Check out our recommendations on the best all-inclusive resorts, the best resorts for families, and the best resorts to visit in Barbados, as well as an article on the best time of year to visit the Caribbean.

Getting There

Grantley Adams International Airport in Seawell, Christ Church, is the central hub in Barbados, and both cabs and rental cars are plentiful once you arrive on the island. The main roads are relatively easy to navigate, though the further you get into side streets on the island, they become more difficult for drivers. For travelers looking to have every element of their trip accounted for (and handled in style), consider booking a vacation with Blue Isles, a full-service destination management company in Barbados that specializes in unique (and uniquely luxurious) on-island experiences.

Check out our article for tips on how to pick the Caribbean island that's right for you and peruse our safety tips for Barbados travelers.

Barbados Culture and History

There's no shortage of diverting events and festivities in Barbados, ranging from the annual Crop Over Festival, the crown jewel of Bajan celebrations that occurs during July and August. Still, other key highlights throughout the year include the Food and Rum Festival in October and the National Independence celebrations that have been held in November every year since 1973. There is also an array of holiday festivities that travelers should check out if visiting during peak season in the winter months, including a New Year's Eve party locally known as Old Year's Night.

Check out our article on the Crop Over Festival in Barbados and our overview of the top Barbados events and festivals as well as our monthly Caribbean event calendar for more information.

Money-Saving Tips

  • Visit in the off-season when it's less expensive, from mid-April through early December, when airfare and hotel bookings are less expensive. Tourists planning on visiting during peak season should scour the web for flight deals and reservations months in advance for the best price.
  • Be sure to avail yourself of the street festivals and parades held throughout the year, and consult our list of events on the island to see if any seasonal activities are occurring while you are visiting.
  • Check to see if the hotel or restaurant has included a service fee in your bill. Otherwise, a 10-15 percent tip is customary.
  • For larger groups, consider booking an all-inclusive resort in Barbados to save on food and drink (especially helpful for larger groups); Almond Casuarina is a popular option.
  • Consider staying in less touristy parts of the island, including in the parish of St. Lucy (home to the natural island beauty including the picturesque Animal Flower Caves)
  • Sign up for one of the free hikes with The Barbados National Trust that occur every Sunday all across the island.
  • Consider reserving your spot on a food tour, which exposes you to a rich array of Bajan cuisine without paying individual restaurant prices.
  • Additionally, entrance fees for museums on the island are quite reasonable, and the exhibits are illuminating, bringing the island's culture and history alive. You can review current prices online.

Learn more about the cheapest ways to have fun with our Barbados budget travel tips (and be sure to check out our safety tips for Barbados travelers, too.) For more information, explore our story on Caribbean budget travel tips and destinations.

Article Sources
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  1. Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. "Travel Information."

  2. Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. "Surfing."

  3. Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. "Birthplace of Rum."